GOP lawmaker calls Trump protesters 'thugs'

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Rep. John Duncan (R-Tenn.) took to the House floor on Tuesday to denounce the protesters who have been disrupting Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump's new digital strategist quickly leaves campaign GOP megadonor compares Trump to Biblical figures Trump calls for deploying NATO troops against ISIS MORE’s campaign rallies.

Duncan, who has not endorsed any presidential candidate, cited a poll mentioned on MSNBC showing that Trump had gained support since the tense protests last Friday in Chicago prompted the GOP front-runner to cancel a planned rally.

“These anti-free speech thugs and their leftist supporters should realize that all they did was make Donald Trump more popular,” Duncan said in his brief House floor remarks.

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Duncan pointed out the comparatively low level of disruptions at events for Democratic candidates Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonAFL-CIO head: Trump’s ‘a fraud’ Sanders skirts Biden's claim that he'll endorse Clinton Overnight Cybersecurity: DNC hacker Guccifer 2.0 speaks out MORE and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders skirts Biden's claim that he'll endorse Clinton The Trail 2016: Meet and greet and grief Biden spills beans: Sanders will endorse Clinton MORE (I-Vt.).

“It was sad to see such hateful intolerance on public display this past Friday. And I’m pleased that no conservatives are doing things like this to Clinton or Sanders rallies,” Duncan said.

While Duncan focused on the protesters, Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanObama signs Puerto Rico debt bill Will Never Trump forces draft Romney to run? The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE has encouraged Trump to take responsibility for unrest at his rallies. Ryan told a Wisconsin radio station on Monday that “candidates need to take responsibility for the environment at their events.”

At the same time, the Speaker said the protesters share some of the blame, saying “there’s obviously an effort by some on the left to shut down these rallies and to stir unrest.”

In another sign that the incidents at Trump rallies are troubling GOP leaders, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellOvernight Healthcare: Dems dig in over Zika funding Business groups ramp up pressure to fill Ex-Im board Senate Dems: No August break without Zika deal MORE (R-Ky.) told reporters on Tuesday that he personally urged Trump to condemn the violence.

One Trump supporter, who is white, was arrested last week for punching a black protester in the face at a North Carolina rally. And on Saturday, a man tried to rush on stage toward Trump at a rally in Ohio. 

Not all Republicans are putting the pressure on Trump. Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) wrote in a blog post this week that Trump’s remaining GOP primary rivals shouldn’t blame the front-runner for the violence at rallies.

“Piling on the frontrunner is a rich political tradition, but to rationalize attempts to stifle free speech is not a Republican tradition and I suspect will serve to strengthen the standing of Donald Trump,” Cramer, who has not endorsed anyone, wrote.

“I hope more Republican leaders condemn those who would deny free speech to Donald Trump and defend those interested in hearing him,” he concluded. 

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